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“Healing with Medical Marijuana: Getting Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors”

By Dr. Mark Sircus

c. 2017, Square One Publishers

$16.95/higher in Canada; 193 pages

A great big handful. That’s how many pills you take each day. Two for symptom relief. One for pain now, one later. Some to stave off anticipated maladies, and one for … well, you don’t know what for. It’d be simpler if you only had one medicine to take, so read “Healing with Medical Marijuana” by Dr. Mark Sircus, and you might find relief.

Marijuana, for use as medicine, has been around for “almost as long as history has been recorded.” Up until 1854, it was widely prescribed as treatment in the U.S. but in 1937, the most common ingredient, cannabis, was “outlawed.”

Today, medical marijuana is legal in some states but, says Sircus, it’s underused though it’s as “safe as aspirin” and, in one form or another, can benefit nearly anyone. It can even be used in pediatric medicine, he asserts.

Contrary to what you may have heard, you can consume marijuana without smoking it. To get the greatest benefit, Sircus says, consider adding other natural elements to your cannabis; magnesium chloride and cannabinoid products together, for example, are like “The Batman-and-Robin superhero medical team … ” Getting oils from the cannabis is essential, and it can be used topically in some instances; for some patients, actually eating the dried plant is effectual. And finally, you can smoke it, as people have been doing for centuries.

Study after study, Sircus claims, has shown that marijuana is useful in treatment of allergies, dementia, ALS, appetite loss, inflammation, Parkinson’s Disease, pain of all sorts, AIDS, epilepsy, PSTD, and other afflictions. Cannabis can cure cancer, he says.  And it’s about time that nation-wide laws and lawmakers catch up with what marijuana users and medical personnel already know.

There was one thing in “Healing with Medical Marijuana” that bothered me above all: the words “Ask your doctor” are terribly lacking.

While it’s true that author Dr. Mark Sircus warns physicians that they “must be careful,” and though I saw mentions on working with your doctor for correct dose or method, those warnings aren’t specific or strong enough – especially if you are already ill or hurting and especially when Sircus himself offers alarming health warnings between assurances that cannabis is safe to consume. There are, as he says, several maladies in which cannabis is definitely not recommended, and there’s an entire section here on addiction and weaning oneself from the substance.

That can’t be comforting for a nervous first-time user. For parents, I can’t even …

Still, Sircus offers studies to back up his claims and assertions, albeit not ones from big-name research laboratories. Of course, anecdotal evidence is abundant (as it undoubtedly is in readers’ lives) which serves somewhat to underscore the information. There’s even some chemistry here, which is good to know but it’s absolutely not enough.

Yes, there are millions who are helped by medical marijuana but this book, even so, should not replace a doctor. Therefore, read “Healing with Medical Marijuana” with physician on speed-dial, eyes wide open, and brain engaged, or you could find a handful of trouble.

“What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear”

By Danielle Ofri, MD

c. 2017, Beacon Press

$24.95/$33.95 Canada; 242 pages

The examination wasn’t bad. The idea of it, perhaps, was worse. Your doctor took your vitals, looked in your mouth, felt around your jaw, and thumped your back. He asked questions, you answered, got down from the table, got dressed, and got your prescription. In and out in 15 minutes but what just happened?  After reading the new book “What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear” by Danielle Ofri, MD, the answer may be “not enough.”

When you’re sick, your doctor might order an MRI, CT, PET, EKG, good old X-rays, or any of dozens of new medicines. That alphabet soup of diagnostics may give you pause, especially when a simpler thing may work just as well.

With the advanced technology that hospitals have, simple might seem contrary but Ofri says that listening, from a doctor’s standpoint, is not just a matter of hearing a list of complaints. It’s “a diagnostic tool and … a therapeutic tool … ” requiring the work of two to be effective. Because body language can speak volumes, listening is also sometimes done by the eyes.

But listening goes both ways and the words a doctor says and the way she says them “can have a potency comparable to the medications we prescribe … ” Patients must closely listen to what their doctor says in order to self-care and heal at home. Here, Ofri believes, is where body language comes in: sometimes, patients may give nonverbal clues or reasons for “noncompliance.” Perhaps they are embarrassed, fearful, can’t afford care or don’t have access to it, can’t read instructions or don’t understand them enough. They may not know their diagnosis, or even their doctor’s name.

Listening, Ofri says, can help when conflicts arise and mistakes are made. It can give patients a better outcome (although note-taking helps!). Good communication will ensure that everyone understands what is about to happen, and it helps a doctor break bad news. “Taking a history” is one of the first things physicians learn in med school. And, says Ofri, “It can sometimes mean life or death.”

“What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear” is a book that makes you want to hang on to every word.

Obviously, author Danielle Ofri, MD is good at communicating, even though she admits here that there were times when she wasn’t. That’s one of the best parts of this book: Ofri not only uses herself as an example, but she spent months interviewing doctor-patient pairs in order to understand the importance of listening in a medical setting. Readers get real-life stories to illustrate the points Ofri makes, told in language that’s authentic but that doesn’t require a PhD to grasp. We’re also given subtle advice on getting (and giving) the best care possible through listening and communicating.

This is the book you want to read in the waiting room at your next doctor’s appointment. It’s the one you’ll want to take to the next medical conference. In both cases, it could make a difference: with “What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear,” it’s your listening skills you’ll be examining.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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